Frequently Asked Questions about Motorcycle Accidents

Q: I was hit by another vehicle while riding my motorcycle. What should I do?

A: First and most importantly, seek medical attention if you were injured in any way. You many not feel pain until a day or two after the accident. If there were witnesses to the accident, try to write down their names and phone numbers at the scene so that you can contact them later on. In addition, take photographs of the accident scene, your injuries and any damage to your motorcycle or other property. Keep track of your medical expenses and other monetary losses you incurred, such as lost wages, because of the motorcycle accident. Finally, contact an attorney who has experience with personal injury cases, specifically motorcycle accident cases, to discuss your legal options for recovery.

Q: What can I receive for my injuries?

A: Every case is different. The exact type and amount of compensation you might receive depend on your individual situation. For example, the amount you receive varies depending upon how severely you were injured; whether you are working and what type of job you have; whether your injuries are permanent; and whether you are married, among other factors. As a general rule, you are entitled to recover for any of the following expenses: medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, future medical expenses, probable loss of wages in the future, property damage, loss of relationship with your spouse and other out-of-pocket expenses due to your injuries.

Q: Is compensation automatic?

A: The types of compensation listed above are not automatically awarded in every case. It is up to you to prove what expenses you have incurred, or will incur in the future, and how much those expenses were or will be.

Q: How long will my case take?

A: The length of time a case takes depends on a number of factors. A complex case, with several different parties, all with different claims, can take longer to resolve than a relatively simple case, involving one injured party and one party who caused the injury. Many straightforward cases are resolved in four to eight months. It is possible, but unusual for a case to take much more than one and a half years to resolve.

Q: I was not wearing a helmet when I was in a motorcycle accident. Does that make a difference?

A: You may bring an action for your injuries even if you were not wearing a helmet, but not wearing a helmet may make a difference in the amount of damages you receive. If not wearing a helmet did not cause or aggravate your injuries (for example, if you were hurt in your legs and wearing a helmet would not have made any difference in your injuries), it probably will not make a difference. Your attorney will discuss your specific situation with you.

Q: What is comparative negligence?

A: Under the doctrine of comparative negligence, a party who is partially at fault for his or her own injuries can still recover for those injuries from another party whose negligence also contributed to the injuries. Basically, the fault of every party involved is compared. The amount of compensation awarded to an injured person will be reduced by his or her share, or percentage, of the total fault.

Q: I was hurt in an accident last week and the other driver’s insurance company has offered to pay me some money. Should I accept it?

A: No. If you accept the check, you may be releasing the other driver from all liability for the accident. You may have to sign a release to get the promised money, or the back of the check you receive may have a notation on it that your endorsement of the check means that you release the other driver from any past, present or future liability for your injuries. The problem with a quick settlement, such as the one you have been offered here, is that it may take weeks or even months before you know the full extent of your injuries. Perhaps you have been out of work since the accident; do you know for sure when you will be working again? Do you know how much your medical bills will be? Odds are good that there are too many unknowns to make it a good idea to settle your case now. You would do best to consult with an attorney who has experience handling motorcycle injury cases before you sign anything.

Q: Do you need a special license to drive a motorcycle?

A: Yes. All 50 states and Washington, D.C. have laws that require motorcyclists to pass a written knowledge test to obtain a license to operate a motorcycle on public roads. The tests and other licensing procedures vary from state to state.

Q: What is the most dangerous type of motorcycle?

A: Motorcyclists who drove supersport cycles had the highest driver death rates per 10,000 registered motorcycles in 2005.1 Supersport motorcycles are consumer versions of racing motorcycles with lower weight, increased power, fast acceleration and the ability to reach high speeds.

1. See Q & As: Motorcycles – general, Sept. 2007, available at http://www.iihs.org/research/qanda/motorcycles.html.

DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.